Last month was supposedly the end of the world here, a big marketing coup from the not so Mayan descendents of one of the greatest civilizations of the world.
We had been talking about the what ifs of the end of the world with BF for about a year. During our 5 months motorcycle trip around Europe, it was a recurring topic on camping nights. One has to get entertained and being 24/7 with the same person, you have to find crazy topics to discuss.
Anyway, I got to reflect on how we could survive a big disaster. The kind that would leave us without internet connection, without a legal tender, without roads and without electric power. How would I call my family to let them know I am still alive and see if they are? What would we have to barter for food? Could we make fire?
When we came back to Guatemala, there was a big earthquake on the coast. We started considering that the world may not end, but there may be a big natural catastrophe that could change a lot of things in the region. After all, the Mayas supposedly predicted the end of their world, and we were living 30 miles away from the biggest city they ever built.
How does that apply to you? Well, it does. Your world may end suddenly. It could be an accident, the death of a spouse, having to support your elderly parents, losing your job… How do you survive?
Do you have a life insurance?
If your spouse or your family is relying on your income, then you should have a life insurance. Nobody depends on my income but I still have an insurance that covers huge hospital bills or repatriation if I die. I wouldn’t want to be a burden to anyone.
I don’t know much about life insurance, so do your research or seek advice. Know your coverage, will it be enough for your family?
Do you have enough saved up?
Whatever the amount the insurance will give you, they will always try for it to be a minimum. You may get 70% or even 50% of your last salary. Are you able to live on that for the rest of your life? If the answer is no, do you have enough money saved up to at least keep your lifestyle going for a few months while you figure things out? Say your spouse can go back to work, how long would it take? Three months of job search or a full year to get an additional degree? Can you wait for that long?
Do you have skills?
The best way to weather a storm is to be independent. When you look at our situation, having a paid for little house, a garden and a few animals, we should be just fine economically if disaster struck. We could live off the land, sell or barter animals to buy the products we need. But in the case of a natural disaster, where we are on our own, we have no skills to butcher animals while the garden grows to a sustainable point.
Without going that far, if you are left without a job, are you able to do all the things you are currently paying for but won’t be able to afford on your own? I can change my car oil, cook most food from scratch, grow a garden (due to heavy rains and the hens eating my crop, that is still a work in progress), I currently hand wash my clothes so if I have a washing machine later, I still know that I am able to take care of the house without any help.
You are absolutely right to be enjoying life right now and paying for convenience on many occasion. But the day you can’t pay anymore, will you take over easily or will there be a lot of learning involved?
Do you have social capital?
I was affirming to BF that we had it pretty good, being near a clear body of water, owning hundreds of heads of cattle and enough land to start extensive crops. But if disaster really struck, what about that open lakefront, where anyone could invade the property and steal our chickens, or kill us for food? My point is, as big as our safety net is, there used to be no one to have our back around here. The situation has changed since we have employed a dozen persons in the village so far, and gained their respect.
In case of an emergency, do you know your neighbors? Can you ask them to take care of your kid, your pet, or water your plants? Do you help them back on a regular basis? Imagine you are a stay at home mum, that just got divorced. You have to go back to work. Can you find a temporary arrangement for your children while you look for jobs? Finding a paid alternative, baby, pet or house sitter can be expensive and complicated. Your community is one of your best assets in case of an emergency.
Are you enjoying life like it actually may end some day?
Joe had a pretty sad comment on my last 13 money resolutions for 2013 post about enjoying life. He talked about one of his customers who was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and decided to take is wife traveling around and doing all the things they hadn’t done during their marriage. Then, realizing he was not as ill as initially announced, he went back to his usual long working hours and forgot his dreams.
That is like the movie UP where the husband is already a widow when he fulfills his and his wife’s dream to go explore the world on an hot air balloon. If you are financially stable, you should be enjoying life today, because you never know what tomorrow can bring. If you died tomorrow, would you be happy with the life you have lived so far?
This is a long shot, I admit. But illness, death and other life tragedies can happen sooner than expected. Although you should hope for the best, you should prepare for the worse.
What are your thoughts? Are you prepared for the worse?